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Lyman Martin interior decoration work and papers

Identifier: KA-0031-01


Lyman Martin (1908-2003) graduated from Parsons School of Design in 1939 and joined Thedlow, an interior decoration firm. At Thedlow, Martin created interiors and watercolor renderings, and designed rugs and murals. In 1969, Martin became president of Thedlow, remaining until its closure in 1979. The collection includes student work, interior drawings, a travel diary, floorplans, photographs, clippings, and exhibition files.


  • 1928 - 1992



4.5 Cubic Feet (5 boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 9 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Lyman Martin interior decoration work and papers document Martin's education and four decade career (1939-1979) with Thedlow, Inc. The collection contains clippings, corporate publicity materials, floor plans, photographs, student lecture notes and artwork, an illustrated travel diary, and a variety of sketches, drawings, and renderings depicting rooms and elements such as floors, windows, and rugs decorated by Thedlow. Materials in the General series are those that do not appear to be related to Martin's professional work for Thedlow, nor do they appear to be student work. Of note is an illustrated travel diary textually and graphically chronicling a sojourn in post-war Europe. Although the trip involved classes with Parsons instructors, Martin had already graduated from the school by this time and was employed by Thedlow.

The Student Work series consists of materials created and received by Martin while studying at Carleton College in Minnesota and, later, at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Included are a student notebook and exam booklet from undergraduate studies at Carleton around 1928-1929, and extensive notes and assignments from interior decoration and art history classes taken at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art between 1936 and 1939.

The third and largest series contains primarily graphic materials created, received, and collected by Martin in his capacity as designer, renderer, and, later, president of Thedlow, Inc. As the firm's chief artist, the graphic records in the collection provide documentation on Martin's and Thedlow's business and creative practices. Also included in this series are a promotional booklet advertising Thedlow's services, Martin's stock certificates, a publicity scrapbook, and photographs, one featuring a group portrait of the Thedlow staff. Some materials pre-date Martin's term with the firm. While many of the photographs and renderings in this series are stamped "Thedlow," similar materials that do not display the Thedlow stamp are included in this series. Of note are a watercolor by Elizabeth Hoopes of a living room, two watercolors depicting the exterior of Thedlow's offices, and a rendering of ranch-style military housing by and for Lyman Martin.

Few renderings in the Thedlow series feature dates, locations, client names, or decorator names. Apart from the illustrated travel diary, there is little documentation of Martin's private life.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical Note

After graduating from Carleton College in Minnesota, Lyman Martin (1908-2003) moved to New York City and began attending the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (later, Parsons The New School for Design). In 1939, Martin graduated from Parsons and shortly thereafter was hired by Thedlow, Inc., one of the oldest interior decoration firms in the United States. Founded in 1919 by Charlotte (Lottie) Handy, Thedlow was exclusively staffed by women until Martin's hiring. He would remain with Thedlow until his retirement, a career interrupted only by three and one half years of service in the U. S. Army Air Forces during World War Two and a post-war study abroad program through Parsons.

At Thedlow, Martin decorated interiors for residential and corporate spaces throughout the United States and the Caribbean. His detailed, evocative renderings enhanced his reputation. When Charlotte Handy retired as president of Thedlow in 1969, she appointed Martin to succeed her. The firm closed in 1979 and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum acquired Thedlow's records.

Source: Rhode Island School of Design. Museum of Art. Thedlow: Twentieth Century Interior Design for Town and Country. Providence : Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1990.


Organized in 3 series: 1. General, 1948-1992; 2. Student work, 1928-1939; 3. Thedlow, Inc., 1930-1990

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Harry S. Martin, 2004.

Related Materials

Fellow Parsons student and interior designer Raymond S. Waldron's papers (KA.0044) in the New School Archives include a travel sketchbook from the same period as Martin's travel diary. Examples of renderings that Martin executed for fellow Parsons graduate Eleanor Horst are included in her collection in the New School Archives, Eleanor Horst interior decoration photographs and renderings (KA.0026). One watercolor by Parsons alumna and instructor, Elizabeth Hoopes, is present in the Martin papers. Additional works by Hoopes may be found in the Elizabeth Hoopes interior design watercolors (KA.0093). The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum holds the administrative records of Thedlow, Inc. Photographs of residential interiors decorated by Thedlow will be found in the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection at the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Guide to the Lyman Martin interior decoration work and papers
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
October 11, 2010
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